Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Night Frozen Dinner And An Intellectual: "How Should We Then Live?" by Francis Schaeffer. Part II

As stated in Part I, In "How Should We Then Live?" Francis Schaeffer was chillingly accurate in his predictions concerning the future of human freedom. The true basis of freedom, Schaffer points out, is Man's unique standing in the Universe as being made in the image of God, being the pinnacle of His creation. Being made in the image of God means that Man is not just another animal. Man has a dignity that must not be taken away from Him. This view of Man, which received new emphasis from the Reformation, led to the development of societies that gave men and women autonomy to determine the course of their own private lives and allowed for what Lincoln called "Government by the People for the People." Schaffer saw that as societies reject Man's unique status, Man would be treated as nothing more than a machine that could be programmed, or an animal whose freedom and numbers must be severely restricted. Governments would adopt authoritarian methods of control to manipulate the thought and lifestyle choices of the masses. Human population control would be a prime concern of these governments. Allied with them would be the elites from the media and the scientific establishment. The population as a whole has had a hand in bringing about this situation. As more people reject absolute standards of right and wrong, they become more accustomed to elites managing more and more of their private life style choices supposedly for the public good. Schaffer formulates this situation this way: "If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute." (Schaffer, p.224) Here is a larger quote from "How Should We Then Live?" concerning this:

"...John Kenneth Galbraith...offered his own form of the elite...this economist has said that we live in a poor culture. Galbraith suggested an elite composed of intellectuals (especially the academic and scientific world) plus the government. In June 1975, 2,000 'futurists' met for the Second General Assembly of the World Future society in Washington, D.C. Socioeconomist Robert Theobald...endorsed the concept of sapientary authority,' a social structure in which wise men selected by merit would be deeply involved in the governmental decision making process. 'It's naive,' declared Theobald, 'to deny the necessity for some kind of competent elite.'

"Daniel Bell..., professor of sociology at Harvard University, sees an elite composed of select intellectuals. He writes in 'The Coming of Post-Industrial Society' (1973), in the chapter entitled 'Who Will Rule,' that 'the university--or some other knowledge institute--will become the central institution of the next hundred years because of its role as the new source of innovation and knowledge.' He says that crucial decisions will come from government, but more and more of the decisions of both business and government will be predicated on government sponsored research, and 'because of the intricately linked nature of their consequences, [the decisions] will have an increasingly technical character.' Society thus turns into a technocracy where 'the determining influence belongs to technicians of the administration and of the economy.' Bell sees that in the final analysis the whole state--its business,its education, its government,even the daily pattern of the ordinary man's life--becomes a matter of control by the technocratic elite. They are the only ones who know how to run the complicated machinery of society and they will then, in collusion with the government elite, have all the power necessary to manage it. (Schaffer would not be surprised at the rationale for appointing a tax cheat to be Secretary of Treasury: It was claimed that he was the only one in the country who understood how the machinery to bail out failed banks worked.)

"Bell's most astute warning concerns the ethical implications of this situation: 'A post-industrial society cannot provide a transcendent ethic....The lack of a rooted moral belief system is the cultural contradiction of a society, the deepest challenge to its survival.' He adds that in the future, men can be remade, their behavior conditioned, or their consciousness altered. The constraints of the past vanish. To the extent that Bell's picture of this future is fulfilled, Galbraith's form of the elite will be the actuality." (Schaffer, p. 224-225)

Written over thirty years ago, Schaffer's predictions of the future hit the nail on the head. Much research goes on today by scientists seeking ways to manipulate human behavior to achieve what are considered to be desirable ends. For a article that recently appeared on this blog chronicling such research, see here. Wesley J. Smith's blog Second Hand Smoke features articles that confirm Schaffer's vision on a daily basis. Here are some links to some recent blogposts that Smith has published: Even those who are conscious while suffering disabilities should be dehydrated or given lethal injections ; the funding of embryonic research should lead to cloning; those who have objections to certain procedures should get out of medicine; the planet's ills are caused by human prosperity ; and this story from "Second Hand Smoke's" 3/24/09 archive entitled "Deep Ecology Misanthropy Moving Into Mainstream Environmentalism." This article confirms the mindset that Schaeffer warned against when we refuse to acknowledge Man's special place in God's creation. Man is seen as an animal whose population must be reduced to save the planet and guarantee the "rights" of the rest of nature. (I could not locate a separate link to this article.)

In "How Should We Then Live?", Schaeffer makes a crucial point. When such dire predictions of the future are made, some will object, confidently asserting that groups dedicated to defending Civil Rights would fight these trends tooth and nail. But Schaeffer points out that many of these groups are committed to government regulation of the private sector. These groups will side with the government against the rights of its citizens more often than not. See this story for a current example.

Part III will explore areas where Schaeffer missed the mark in his exploration of our future.

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